Courses: First-Year Seminars

Many First-Year Seminars are offered every Fall semester for incoming students.  All of our First-Year Seminar courses are open to every incoming, first-year student,* though students who wish to enroll in RHET 195 should follow guidelines regarding Directed Self-Placement.  Transfer students may enroll in one of our Transfer-Year SeminarsRHET 195 and RHET 295 courses are typically the only First-Year Seminar classes offered in Spring semesters.

In addition, students should know that our RHET 195 Writing courses are equivalent to RHET 110 Written Composition I, and do not by themselves complete the Core A2 requirement; they are a prerequisite for RHET 120 Written Communication II or any equivalents.

Every incoming student may only enroll in one First-Year Seminar, so that this opportunity is available to all.  Those who inadvertently enroll in multiple FYS courses will be asked to remove one from their schedule and enroll in a different available course.  Questions can be addressed to the Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities, Cathy Gabor.

(* Eligible students may sometimes be prevented from registering online in a First-Year Seminar due to accumulated course credits from AP or IB or community college courses, along with credits from their first semester at USF if you are trying to enroll in a Spring semester course.  Even if you have in excess of 32 credits applied toward graduation, you may still be able to enroll in a FYS course.  If you think this applies to you, please contact your New Student Registration Adviser <> or your CASA Academic Success Coach <>


Fall 2024 Courses

Prerequisite Writing course - Rhetoric and Composition

The RHET 195 First Year Seminars below are available to students who have placed into RHET 195 through Directed Self Placement (DSP).  If you placed into a different RHET course (e.g. RHET 110, RHET 106, RHET 106N), you should register for that class, and choose a different First-Year Seminar.  As noted above, these RHET 195 courses do not fulfill your USF Core A2 Written Communication requirement, but serve as a prerequisite to a course, such as RHET 120, that will.

RHET 195-03 Language and Power

CRN # 40216
Brian Dempster
Tues. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

Language and Power examines rhetorics of nationalism and social justice--and the ways in which language and power are entwined. We will analyze a diverse range of texts (nonfiction essays, poems, stories, films, laws, photographs, music): who writes these texts, for what purpose, and with what agenda? How do we better understand past events through the lens of historical context and also current perspectives? How does inclusion/exclusion of certain viewpoints and voices impact how we view history and the collective narrative of America? With a focus on how rhetoric and power structures have affected (and continues to affect) Asian Pacific Americans and other marginalized groups, we will link these discourses through an intersectional framework and see how writers, artists, and everyday people address issues of cultural (mis)representation and advocate for social justice. Together with guest speakers and virtual trips to local sites, we will critically discuss language and power, interact with primary and secondary sources, and craft papers in response to these course themes. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]

RHET 195-05 Writing about Human Rights

CRN # 40218
Julie Sullivan
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m

What does it mean to have rights? Do all humans share equal access to these rights? And, if they do, then why do we see human rights violations go unpunished throughout the world, including in our own country? In this class we will explore the sometimes broad and overwhelming topic of Human Rights through the different forms of media available. Based on timeliness and interest, the course will explore Human Rights issues in areas such as: Criminal Justice, Employment, Education, Gender equity, Healthcare, Hunger, and Immigration. This class requires all involved to be learners, teachers, and individuals willing to voice concerns and create awareness. How you choose to vocalize will be up to you. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]

Core A1 - Public Speaking

RHET 195-01 Sports Talk

CRN # 40214
John Ryan
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30-11:35 a.m.

Sports Talk uses the world of sports to investigate public discourse. You will use the rhetoric of athletes, coaches, owners, and fans as a springboard into the study of public speech and public communication. The class emphasizes a critical approach as students immerse themselves in the history of sports communication from the early twentieth century up to the present. Students will have the opportunity to explore the historical and social changes that have been inspired by our national fascination with sports. We will visit local venues and examine what these facilities say about our priorities and our values.

RHET 195-02 Podcasts: Eloquentia & Audio

CRN # 40215
Phil Choong
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Podcasts are shared, downloaded, and listened to by millions of people each year. Media companies and indie creators alike are attracted to the medium for its accessibility and ability to start conversations on a wide range of public issues. In this class, students analyze the ways that podcasting operates as a mode of public speaking in the 21st century and learn to produce their own rhetorical podcasts. We examine the persuasive appeals and motivational strategies of podcasts, as well as the cultural and digital contexts in which they circulate. Weekly hands-on exercises develop skills in speaking, listening, writing, and audio production that can move audiences. The semester culminates in students producing their own podcast episode about an issue of personal and local significance.

RHET 195-04 Telling SF Stories

CRN # 42098
Michael Rozendal
Tues. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

Inspired by the creativity, social movements, communities, and environments of San Francisco, this class will explore the power of storytelling and public speaking. We will talk about our own hopes & experiences, explore neighborhoods & museums, and research the roots, legacies, & unfinished promise of our shared city so that we can celebrate them. This class will collaborate with Prof. David Silver’s environmental studies “Golden Gate Park” first year seminar, coming together at several points over the semester to exchange our insights, amplify our curiosities, and expand our community. This course meets the Core A1 Public Speaking requirement and is only open to incoming First-Year Students.

Core C1 - Literature

CMPL 195-01 Literature of the Child

CRN # 40703
Shawn Doubiago
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 11:45-12:50 p.m.

What is it about childhood that leaves such an indelible mark on our lives? And how has growing up been perceived in other eras and cultures? In this course you are invited to consider these questions and more by examining literary representations of childhood in various genres such as poems, short stories, plays, the Bildungsroman, the memoir, and novels. In our quest to better understand the role childhood plays in our lives, and the ways childhood has been perceived historically, we will also examine  parent-child relationships, family dynamics, society, culture, history, trauma, and theories that affect our early experiences. We will trace these issues in global literature, film, and culture. [Also meets Cultural Diversity Core Requirement]

CMPL 195-02 "Voyage to Italy" - Italian Literature and Film

CRN # 40704
Sara Marinelli
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m.

Italy often enters people’s imagination as a romantic idealized place filled with the intense beauty of its art, architecture, nature, and the rich variety of its culture. This course is an opportunity to discover that beauty and take a voyage to Italy through the route of its literature and cinema. We will explore and discuss modern and contemporary urban and popular culture through the films of great Italian directors, from Neo-Realism to today, and we will be captivated by the struggle and resilience of many unforgettable characters in the literature of contemporary authors. We will also connect with pop culture, discover aspects of Italian heritage in San Francisco, and attend events at the Italian Cultural Institute.

FREN 195-01 Creative Resistance in the Congo

CRN #40896
Karen Bouwer
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m

Creative forms of activism and resistance to exploitation always inspire us. The Congolese, as masters of the art(s) of survival, have much to teach us. In his novel Congo Inc. Jean Bofane asserts that, since its inception, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with its huge reserves of mineral and natural riches, has been seen as a source of profit rather than a nation serving the needs of its people, with devastating consequences for humans and the environment. In this course we will draw on literary texts and films as well as music and visual arts to explore how individuals and groups (both real and fictional) affirm their cultural heritage and create livable futures by struggling for globally relevant causes such as democracy, justice, human rights, and sustainable development. [Also meets Cultural Diversity Core Requirement]

JAPN 195-01 Reading Osaka from San Francisco

CRN #40923
Stephen Roddy
Tues. & Thurs. 4:45–6:25 p.m

Ōsaka is a vibrant, cosmopolitan port city located in the heart of the Kansai region, near the ancient capitals of Kyōto and Nara. It is also a sister city of San Francisco, and shares with it a long history of entrepreneurship and cultural innovation. This course introduces writers like Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Kawabata Yasunari, Tsutsui Yoshitaka, and Kōno Taeko, whose works have documented the amazing evolution of Kansai and Japan as a whole over the past century. We will also read about popular culture like the manga and anime of Tezuka Osamu, and the Takarazuka all-female musical theatre. In addition, field trips to Japan Town, just a ten-minute bus ride from campus, will give us a sense of San Francisco’s important place in the history of U.S.-Japan relations. 

SPAN 195-01 Latinx Art & Community in SF

CRN # 40942
Karina Hodoyan
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m

This is an introductory survey course that examines the roots of Latin/x American literary and visual art in the San Francisco Bay Area with a focus on how the community responds in times of crisis: colonization and invasion, booms and busts, earthquakes, and pandemics. We will study the role art and language played in imagining and documenting the history of Latinx communities, from the Missions to modern-day San Francisco. A special focus will be on Latinx social movements as constituting a key part of the legacy of this city, particularly how artists and the community have responded to COVID-19. The course includes special lectures by artists and writers, and visits to museums, theatre, or films in the city.  Also meets Cultural Diversity Core Requirement.

Core D1 - Philosophy

PHIL 195-01 Minds and Machines

CRN # 41169
Rebecca Mason
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 11:45-12:50 p.m.

You spend your entire life inside your own head. There is nothing that you know more intimately than the contents of your own mind: your beliefs, your memories, your desires, your fears, your pains and pleasures. Despite the fact that you are directly acquainted with your thoughts and experiences, the human mind is in many ways more mysterious than even the far reaches of the universe. In this course, we will investigate the nature of the mind, and the relationship between the mind, the brain, and the body. We will also critically examine some of the ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence.

PHIL 195-02 Lovers of Wisdom

CRN # 41170
Tom Cavanaugh
Tues. & Thu. 8:00–9:45 a.m.

Literally, philosophy means the love of wisdom. So, philosophy is about our desire for knowledge, like wisdom. What is wisdom? Who is wise? Does wisdom make us happy? Is ignorance bliss? Why pursue wisdom? Wanting wisdom, yet not sure of what it is, we will ask these and other questions: does suffering lead to wisdom? does wisdom comfort the wise person? does the wise person comfort others? are science and technology wisdom? do they require wisdom to be used well? how does your USF education fit into a search for wisdom? is wisdom worth pursuing? We will ask these questions relying on Socrates, Confucius, Descartes, and the French existentialist Simone Weil; by reading the Tao Te Ching and novels such as Brave New World; by watching movies like The Matrix and Gattaca. We will also visit the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to see fascinating ancient objects related to Confucianism.

Core D2 - Theology & Religious Studies

THRS 195-01 Jews, Judaism & Jewish Identities

CRN # 41366
Aaron Hahn Tapper
Thu. 12:45–4:25 p.m.

As individuals and communities, we enact constructed senses of self—identities—through our behavior and experiences. Shaped by cultures, value systems, histories, and narratives, our identities relate to virtually every aspect of our lives. This class asks students to explore this central part of being human, using “Jews” as an entry point. Rooted in Hahn Tapper’s award-winning book Judaisms—written precisely for this course—we ask “what does it mean to be a Jew in the 21st century?” in an effort to figure out students’ own social identities. We will look at how Jews have reshaped their customs, practices, and beliefs over the course of centuries, weaving together dominant and marginalized voices along the way. Each week, class will be held at an off-campus site of importance to Jewish communities in San Francisco, such as Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, Contemporary Jewish Museum, JCCSF, and much more.

Core D3 - Ethics

PHIL 195-03 When East Meets West

CRN # 41171
David Kim
Tues. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m

This seminar introduces students to ethical traditions in Asia and the West, and how to compare and integrate these traditions. It also offers an introduction to various ethical dimensions of East-West encounter, especially across the last century and with special attention paid to U.S.-Asia relations. We will begin by addressing various elements of moral philosophy in Aristotle, Kant, and Mill, and the ethics of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The course will then investigate through film and philosophy the modern encounter between various Asian and Western peoples and the ethical orientations they brought to the bear in the battlefield, the halls of congress, courts of law, the home, the construction of identity, the transformation of culture, and other aspects of social life.

Core E - Social Sciences

COMS 195-01 Landscapes of Communication

CRN # 40216
Marco Jacquemet
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30-11:35 a.m.

Our experience of communication is shaped by the physical realities of the territory: streets, neighborhoods, and transportation routes; transcontinental cable lines; GPS and communication satellites; computer networks and cyberspace, cellular phones, and the virtual realities of the postmetropolis (from Facebook to foursquare). In this course, we will have a chance to brush up on our geographical knowledge and develop new ways of understanding the communicative field. We will explore the differences between space and place, the use of the urban space by various groups (the youth, the migrants, the police), the interaction between communication media and physical geography, the networked nature of social interactions, and the emerging importance of mobile and cyber communication. Finally we will assess the implications these digital communicative environments have for social justice by addressing such issues as the “digital divide” or the power struggle for open media access. We will work together to produce different communicative maps of our city: a map of the languages spoken in a particular neighborhood (this will include some fieldtrips), a map of the security apparatus on campus, and a map of city-specific digital networks.

ENVA 195-01 Golden Gate Park

CRN # 40748
David Silver
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m

This class considers Golden Gate Park as a lens and site to explore the environmental history of what we now call San Francisco. We begin by learning about different groups' relationships to Bay Area nature and natural resources, including native Ohlone people, Spanish missionaries, Mexican ranchers, and gold-hungry 49ers. Next, with research visits to Gleeson Library's Donohue Rare Book Room, San Francisco Public Library, and UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, we trace the development of Golden Gate Park and investigate key eras like the 1894 Midwinter Fair and WPA projects built in the 1930s. Having considered the past, we turn our attention to the present and future and examine contemporary uses of the park and develop ideas and initiatives that could make it more inclusive, diverse, and sustainable. Be ready for field trips. With the park literally two blocks from USF, we will explore as much of it as possible, from the panhandle to Ocean Beach, and take deep dives into the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum and Cafe, and the National AIDS Memorial Grove. If we're lucky, we may even spot a coyote or two.

INTD 195-01 Law and Order: San Francisco

CRN # 42347
Tues. 8:00-11:00 a.m. & Thu. 8:00–9:55 a.m.

Drawing on the famous TV series​ Law & Order ​as inspiration, this first-year seminar will focus on the criminal and civil justice systems and will feature carefully selected readings plus regular field trips to local state and federal courtrooms to attend arraignments, hearings, trials, and sentencing. A significant goal of the course is to help you discuss, analyze and write about social justice as practiced in our society and as depicted in movies and television. In addition, you will be exposed to a social science methodology and a language for describing the relationships between law and social justice. You will be given the opportunity to make first-hand observations about the criminal and civil justice systems, and speak to participants through informal meetings or guest lectures. Optionally, you may elect to participate in the SF Police Department’s Ride-Along program, where citizens accompany officers as they go about their daily operations.

SOC 195-01 Engaging Political Islam

CRN # 41338
Sadia Saeed
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30-11:35 a.m.

What is the relationship between Islam and politics? In what ways has this relationship changed over time? How is Islam represented in Western media? We address these and related question in Islam, Politics, Society. The course will begin with an introduction to the basic elements of Islamic faith and history. We will then explore the broad and oftentimes controversial topic of political Islam through a range of materials including academic writings, films, popular media, and group research projects. In the process, we will get versed on key debates on democracy, social movements, civil society, colonialism, Islamic revival, and gender and minority issues. Throughout the course, students will critically evaluate popular stereotypes of Islam while enhancing their understanding of central social, political and legal issues in Muslim societies. Islam, Politics, Society is a First Year Seminar that fulfills USF’s requirement in Core E: Social Science and CD: Cultural Diversity.

Core F - Visual and Performing Arts

ART 195-01 Sacred Art in the City

CRN # 42493
Nathan Dennis
Wed. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

This course examines the art and architecture of San Francisco’s diverse religious communities that have settled in the city over the last 150 years, including Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant), Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, and indigenous traditions that represent the multicultural heritage of the city’s native and immigrant populations. Students will visit San Francisco museums, galleries, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and historical centers throughout the semester to study how religious heritage has helped make San Francisco one of the most dynamic and culturally diverse cities in the world. Students will meet once a week for 3 hours and 40 minutes, which will enable the class to leave campus for site visits throughout San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.

ART 195-03 Exploring Asian Art in San Francisco

CRN # 40400
Jon Soriano
Wed. 11:45 – 3:25 p.m.

San Francisco has long been well known for its rich collections of Asian art, accessible at sites such as the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, the Asian Art Museum, and the streets of Chinatown.  This class provides an introduction to this art, and asks several questions about it:  How did all this art get here?  What relevance do these works have to the surrounding community?  What ideological and material factors are involved in owning and displaying this art?  We will explore Asian art in San Francisco through these questions and others by going on multiple site visits, looking closely at art, reading a range of texts, independent research, analysis, and group discussion. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or “CD” Core Requirement]

CHIN 195-01 Global Chinese Cinema

CRN # 40878
Wei Yang Menkus
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

This course examines Chinese cinema in a global age, with particular focus on the transnational contexts of production, circulation and reception. Charting the cinematic developments from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora since the 1970s, we investigate the role of film in constructing the notion of nation-state, and explore the shifting dynamics between culture, politics, and economics within historical and geopolitical discourses. Class discussion, following the weekly screening, will revolve around themes, stylistics, and genres as represented through film. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or “CD” Core Requirement]

DANC 195-01 Dance in San Francisco

CRN # 41096
Megan Nicely
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

San Francisco is home to one of the most vibrant and diverse dance communities in the country. Exploring the range of movement styles, dance artists, companies, and organizations at work in the Bay Area provides us with a unique opportunity to understand the vanguard of contemporary performance and the many historical and cultural threads that underlie these practices. By participating in a range of movement classes both on and off campus, attending performances, learning from guest artists, and engaging in both academic and creative movement activities, students will discover the ways dance both supports and challenges dominant cultural values, narratives, and ideals of its time. No prior dance experience is necessary.

MUS 195-01 Opera in San Francisco

CRN # 41146
Pamela Kamatani
Tues. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

Opera: where you can do anything so long as you sing it! This course explores the world of opera and the issues presented in (or hidden under) beautiful singing. We will learn about this often extravagant art form and what it says about the society in and for which it was created. We will deepen our discussion by attending three performances at the San Francisco Opera, one of the top three companies in the country. In class we will discuss the readings and bring the issues up to date through our own experiences, and we will study and view/listen to portions of operas from 1600s Italy to 21st century USA. No knowledge of music necessary, only curiosity, interest in challenging deep-seated assumptions, and openness to new ideas. Readiness to have fun a plus!

MUS 195-02 Hearing AIDS

CRN # 42500
Thomas Kurtz
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

This course investigates queer identities in contemporary culture by analyzing popular, traditional, and undocumented musical examples of songs confronting the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area. Musical technique (vocal/instrumental), sonic characteristics, performance practices, lyrical classification, and visual media elements will be examined for how they contribute to defining the relationship between music, identity, and activism. The goal of the course is to increase awareness regarding the relationship between music and identity, the role of identity in music-making/listening, as well as the function of music as integral within a greater political/social movement.

THTR 195-01 Performing Identity: Theater and Social Issues

CRN # 41115
Nanna Mwaluko
Tues. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Performing Identity will focus on how theater artists represent social and cultural issues that intersect with their individual lives. We will develop guiding concepts to understand the intersection of race and theater, identity and cultural tradition, Hip-Hop and local politics.  We will examine the artistic, social and political forces that have inspired theater artists to develop innovative artistic techniques and new theatrical forms.  We will ask, what role does theater play in presenting identity, and in representing different communities?  What kind of theater teaches people how to impact society?  What theater organizes movements for peace and justice, inspires people to seek the truth about herstory and history?  Our course culminates with individual presentations of research projects or short performances that reflect student interest on a social, political issue or cultural identity in relationship to a theatrical artist or work of art. 



Spring 2024 Courses

Prerequisite Writing course - Rhetoric and Composition

The RHET 195 First Year Seminars below are available to students who have placed into RHET 195 through Directed Self Placement (DSP).  If you placed into a different RHET course (e.g. RHET 110, RHET 106, RHET 106N), you should register for that class, and choose a different First-Year Seminar.  As noted above, these RHET 195 courses do not fulfill your USF Core A2 Written Communication requirement, but serve as a prerequisite to a course, such as RHET 120, that will.

RHET 195-03 Race, Media, & Popular Culture

CRN # 20077
Gina Arnold
Tues. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, many believed that we had entered an idyllic “post race” society. This, however, has not been the case, as countless comedy routines and political advertisements remind us on a daily basis. From professional sports to the VMA awards, race makes itself known, creating statements that are well worth examining in a classroom setting. That is why this course examines the way that race gets performed in American popular culture. The course combines the study of literary texts by authors like Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz with poems, speeches, films, video memes, and rap music in order to study the way that language, drama, and visual arts can enable historically marginalized individuals to articulate traumatic experiences, protest unjust conditions, and reshape others' perceptions. In addition, students will have the opportunity to attend several local theater and dance company performances. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]

RHET 195-04 Writing about Human Rights

CRN # 20078
Julie Sullivan
Tues. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

What does it mean to have rights? Do all humans share equal access to these rights? And, if they do, then why do we see human rights violations go unpunished throughout the world, including in our own country? In this class we will explore the sometimes broad and overwhelming topic of Human Rights through the different forms of media available. Based on timeliness and interest, the course will explore Human Rights issues in areas such as: Criminal Justice, Employment, Education, Gender equity, Healthcare, Hunger, and Immigration. This class requires all involved to be learners, teachers, and individuals willing to voice concerns and create awareness. How you choose to vocalize will be up to you. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]

RHET 195-05 Sidewalk Rhetoric

CRN # 20079
Nicole Mauro
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 3:30–4:35 p.m.

Sidewalk Rhetoric (also called "Intersection: Sidewalks and Public Space") uses the sidewalk to explore the various, often subversive, forms of argument occurring in our urban landscape. We use sidewalks to move from place to place without explicitly acknowledging sidewalks are also the places where we manufacture and maintain, as well as disrupt, civilized social discourse. Given the current political and social clime in which we see peaceful protests clash with more militant, violent ones, it is critical we examine the role public space plays in driving rhetoric. Course topics include: protests, riots, graffiti, street art, vandalism, surveillance, gentrification, and other issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially as they inform public and private space. Interdisciplinary works about sidewalks and urban landscapes will inspire students to engage in issues that occur on, and because of, sidewalks, and consider how (and by whom) sidewalks are “supposed” to be used, why sidewalks spark social critique and the expression of personal sentiment, and the powerful, often anonymous, agendas they pursue. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]